Gaining followers is of the most talked about subjects on Twitter. From #TeamFollowBack to Auto-Follow scripts, the Twittersphere is obsessed with obtaining social media celebrity. Lusting for fame is commonplace in all avenues of life, but on social media it seems to be the sole focus for many people. This insatiable thirst for followers is one of the biggest problems with social media. It pollutes the ecosystem of communication, and takes the focus away from what is most important, connecting with people.
Instead of pursuing quantity of followers, we should focus on quality. Some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met I have found on Twitter, but only by focusing on building meaningful relationships, not obsessing with numbers. If you really want to be influential on Twitter, here are some suggestions I’ve found over the course of my Twitter wanderings that hopefully will help.
1) Forget Followers. Look for Disciples
History is filled by examples of people who succeed because they build networks of organized and devoted followers. The size of the movement is secondary to the dedication of the participants. The survival of western civilization can be traced back to one charismatic man who inspired twelve other charismatic men to travel the world and share his ideas. For hundreds of years, the church they helped form was the bastion of Europe’s knowledge, and the sole custodian of Greek and Roman wisdom . The principles of human interaction are still the same after 2000 years: focus on building meaningful relationships with people, and your message will spread. The next time you look at your 50 follows, look for the one who always reads your posts, and always wants to discuss them with you. That person is more valuable than a thousand spam accounts, and will be the one who helps spread your message.
2) People Will Only Listen if You Are Useful
People only pay attention when you provide something they want. Human relationships are symbiotic. The cruel, the selfish, and the obnoxious are shunned, because relationships with those types of people are one-sided. If you want to gather followers, you’ll have to work very hard to supply them with content that is useful and appealing to their needs. Maintaining several friendships is hard, and keeping thousands of Twitter followers happy is even harder. Ask any successful Twitter user, and they will tell you that maintaining a large following is a full-time job. You have to be up to the task of providing value to thousands of people if you are to maintain a large following. It can be done, but it takes a lot of work. Answer questions people ask you, post meaningful content, and engage with the people whose content you enjoy. Provide a reason for people to follow you.
3) Focus on the Message You Want to spread
The biggest problem with follower-obsession is that it becomes more important than the reason you got on Twitter in the first place. Just like the story of the film “Rock Star”, fame can easily eclipse the purpose of an individual. True influence only comes from focusing on the message you want to spread, and seeking attention at the cost of connection often ruins the chance at obtaining either. By focusing on a specific message, it makes people who find you in searches know what your interests are, and it will make like-minded people want to follow you. It might not mean hoards of followers, but it will mean someone who will be truly interested in what you are saying.
4) Show Appreciation to the People Following You Already
Nothing is more important than appreciating what you already have, and the same goes for followers. Show your gratitude for their continued support, and your attention to those you already know will create more connections in the future. It takes time, and it takes effort, but it creates a network of followers that will stick with you for the long haul. One instance of kindness pays off tenfold in the future. There was a DJ company I was working for that had a follower who asked about the origin of a famous scratching sample. I did some research on it, and returned with a comprehensive answer. One instance of being considerate created one of our most dedicated brand ambassadors, and I still talk to him regularly on my personal account, even though I have since moved on from the company.
Bottom line, focus on the social in social media. Find people who have interesting things to say, and provide interesting content. Share it, discuss it, and in the end you will find that you have the following that you wanted in the first place. It might not be huge, but it will be dedicated, and it will be something that provides value for a long time to come.
Mr. David Benson is a social media analyst and coffeephile. He currently lives in New York City and works as an analyst for Mashwork, a social media analytics company.